The Railway Board has formulated a policy to remove ubiquitous AH Wheelers book stalls with a motive to decongest Indian Railways stations. However, the iconic institution is opposing the plan as it has flagged several discrepancies. The new policy demands the conversion of all exclusive stalls which includes the conversion of old wheelers into multi-purpose stalls (MSPs). This multi-purpose stall is to sell everything from books, newspapers, magazines, packaged drinking water, biscuits, chips, medicines, milk powder to other products. Railway Board sent a letter to ask the Central Railway zone to implement the policy.
According to a senior official from Central Railway, “The aim of the new policy is to reduce the number of stalls on railway premises with the view to decongest railway stations. At present, there are independent stalls selling medicines, while some sell simply books, and others have edible items. All these items can be sold under one roof. However, there are certain inconsistencies in the policy and we have asked for an explanation from the board on the same.”
Stall owners have been opposing the policy by stating that it would accrue heavy losses to their businesses. As per a clause in the policy, a single company cannot run more than 10 MSPs in one railway zone.
At present, there are about 18 AH Wheeler stalls only on the suburban network of Central Railway. They pay only 5% of its annual turnover to the national transporter. The new guidelines require them to pay at least 12% of their estimated sale turnover.
The official added, "According to the policy, the remaining stalls owned by AH Wheelers will have to shut down once their existing contract is over. So, we have asked them to iron out issues like these."
While Shailendra Kumar, Chief Commercial Manager of CR stated, “The committee is trying to resolve all the issues raised. We have written to them seeking clarification.”
A H. Wheeler or simply Wheeler is an entirely Indian owned company which owns a bookstore chain at the Railway station. It was co-founded by Emile Moreau, a French businessman, T. K. Banerjee, an Indian businessman and others in Allahabad in 1877. Since then, it has been operating from railway stations. Also as per a book stalls policy of 2004, only retailers, individuals and self-help groups can run these A.H. Wheeler.